It really has been a year of record-breaking wins and underdog victories, from Leicester City to the Cronulla Sharks, sport has been huge in 2016 and the AFL certainly was no different.
The Western Bulldogs broke a mammoth premiership drought in unseating a Sydney Swans side that continues to choke at the pointy end of the season.
Rule changes, coaches under fire, player movement and teams falling and rising at will. Let’s have a look at 2016 in the land of AFL.
Essendon barely surviving
The Bombers were without nearly their entire regular team for 2016 after the punishment was handed down from the long-winding supplements saga.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for the red sash and they just couldn’t get a roll on at any point throughout the year.
They went on a 17-game losing streak that took up most of the season, before finally picking up a win against the Suns in Round 21.
They finished with half as many wins as last season (3) and picked up their first wooden spoon in 83 years, breaking another one of the AFL’s longest droughts alongside the Bulldogs historic win.
They scored the least amount of points in the league averaging just 65 per game, and conceded the second most out of all 18 sides.
How about that top eight
It wasn’t just a jostle at the top for the minor premiership, the entire top eight was one of the tightest contests in recent memory, with just one game separating the top six sides at the end of the season. The Bulldogs were just one game further back in seventh.
Sydney, Geelong and Hawthorn all finished on equal points on the top of the ladder, with just percentages separating the minor premiership.
The final round, or the second half of the season for that matter, was a constant tightrope for every team in the finals equation.
A win could catapult you up into the top four or even top spot, but a loss could see any given side drop four or five spots in a single week.
It became some seriously entertaining to watch.
Adelaide were arguably the biggest victims of the intense positional jostling. They came into the final round in second place with a shot at top spot up for grabs but were upset by the West Coast Eagles.
Instead of a minor premiership and pole position in the race for the flag, they were dropped down to fifth and knocked out in the second week of the finals.
The Swans took top spot thanks to a big 113-point win over a hapless Richmond side in the last round, boosting their percentage above Geelong and Hawthorn.
Greater Western Sydney also made their first-ever finals berth, finishing in fourth place.
The Crows, Eagles, Bulldogs and Kangaroos rounded out the eight leading into the first week of the finals.
The Bulldogs unexpectedly knocked over the Eagles to end their season with a disappointing 47-point loss.
Geelong scraped past Hawthorn in one of the games of the year, holding on desperately to a two-point lead in the final quarter to book their week off.
Adelaide then trounced North Melbourne to end an incredibly up and down season for the Kangaroos.
The biggest upset of the opening week was saved for last. The Giants beat big brother the Swans away from home. GWS ran away with the game in the second half to win by 36.
Week two was much nicer to the Swans, cruising fairly comfortably past Adelaide by 46 points at home, while the Bulldogs continued their winning ways by upsetting three-time defending champions Hawthorn by 23.
Geelong were no match for Sydney in the prelims, allowing the red and white to book their third Grand Final in five years.
The Giants and Dogs put on an absolute thriller at Spotless Stadium, trading the lead more times than you could keep up with before the Dogs snuck home by a single goal.
Then there were two.
The 2016 grand final has been covered to death and will continue to be remembered as one of the best of all time. Not so much for the quality of the contest, but the history and emotion surrounding the Bulldogs quest for victory.
The Swans were behind the contest from the first quarter, and despite a few short comeback attempts, the Dogs shut out one of the most potent attacking forces in the competition.
Six goals to three in the second half was enough for the longest drought in the AFL to come to an end, winning by 22 points.
Swans losing their neck when it counts
The Swans have only missed the finals once in the last 14 years, not to mention winning two premierships in the last 12.
But they’ve also lost three grand finals in that same period of time, as well as being knocked out in straight weeks last year after a top four finish.
It’s a huge achievement by the Dogs to do what they did, but the Swans have a knack of choking on the big stage despite having one of if not the strongest roster in the league.
They averaged a touch over 100 points per game throughout the whole season, including the finals, but could only manage 69 in the biggest game of the year.
The fise, fall and clean out of the Kangaroos
The Kangaroos started with a record-breaking nine wins in a row to start their 2016 campaign and many were touting a top four finish and a run at the flag.
Instead, North went on to lose their next seven games in succession and just hang on to the eighth spot at the end of the regular season on percentages ahead of a late charging St Kilda side.
They were bundled out of the finals in the first week after copping an ugly 62-point loss against the Crows.
To top it all off, the club announced they were axing veterans Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito, Nick Dal Santo and Brent Harvey, who just happened to break the all-time games record a few weeks beforehand.
And they did so before the season had even finished, leaving the players emotional and uncertain of their futures, while the fan backlash impacted crowd numbers and support.
What started so promising collapsed so quickly for North Melbourne in 2016.
Danger owns the Brownlow, as Jobe loses his
The coveted Brownlow Medal has had an interesting year. There were three winners and one loser in 2016 as dominance and controversy both shrouded the award.
Patrick Dangerfield had a fairly impressive year for the Cats if you want to take things lightly. The 26-year-old broke nearly every record in the Brownlow book to win his first award.
His tally of 35 votes is an all-time record, as was the margin of victory, finishing an astonishing nine points ahead of the next best.
He also set a new record for scoring votes in the most amount of games with 15, as well as equalling the record for nine best on grounds in a single season.
This was Danger’s first season in Geelong colours after a long career at the Crows, and he didn’t want any time making an impression.
While he was winning his medal for the 2016 season, Trent Cotchin and Sam Mitchell were winning their first Brownlows, for the 2012 season.
Having been wrapped up in the Essendon supplements saga since it first broke in 2013, the fate of Jobe Watson’s 2012 Brownlow victory was decided.
Even more astounding than having the medal stripped and vacated, is that the AFL decided to hand it on to the runner-up of that year.
Which just gets even better because there were two of them.
It’s highly unlikely there will ever be another situation such as this. Not only was a Brownlow taken, but was then given to two players to form a trio of winners in a single year.
Special mention: Jimmy Bartel’s beard
How good was that bit of facial fur? Dead set a 10/10 on the lumberjack scale.
Bartel’s beard was the butt of many jokes throughout the year, but it was done for a good cause and raised awareness for domestic violence in Australia.
Not to mention his spot on Happy Gilmore caddy impression.
Facts and figures of 2016
– Josh Kennedy broke away from Lance Franklin late in the season to claim the Coleman Medal for the second year in a row, with 80 goals. He becomes the first to go back-to-back since Fraser Gehrig in 2004-05.
– The Bulldogs won their first premiership in 62 years, also becoming the first team to win the flag from seventh position.
– Essendon broke a club record in 2016 for the most consecutive losses, suffering 17 defeats in a row before beating the Suns in Round 21.
– The Brisbane Lions also went on a record-breaking losing streak, setting a new club record of 12 defeats on the trot.
– The Sydney Swans made 155 tackles in their game against the Demons in Round 13, setting a new all-time record in the AFL for a single game.
– At 20 years and 194 days, Marcus Bontempelli became the youngest player in history to captain their side to a win.
– Essendon’s halftime score of just 0.4 (4) against North Melbourne in Round 8 is their lowest halftime score in over a century since round 1, 1915.
– There was an astonishing 31 players who reached milestones of over 200 career games this year, including six players getting past 300 games in Jimmy Bartel, Scott Thompson, Drew Petrie, Sam Mitchell, Shaun Burgoyne and Nick Riewoldt.
– As well as notching up his 350th game during the season, Matthew Pavlich racked up his 700th career goal in Round 23, putting a long way ahead with the club record and sitting 22nd in the all-time list.
– Veteran Kangaroo Brent Harvey not only passed 500 career goals in Round 11, but he became the most capped player in AFL history, beating legend Michael Tuck’s mark of 426 games before finishing the season and his career on 432.
– Not to be outdone, Rodney Eade and John Worsfold passed 600 and 500 games respectively as both coach and player.
Premiers: Western Bulldogs
Grand final: Bulldogs 13.11 (89) df Swans 10.7 (67)
Minor premiers: Sydney Swans
Wooden spoon: Essendon Bombers
Brownlow Medal: Patrick Dangerfield (GEL)
Highest attendance: 99,981 (MCG,Grand Final)
Most points for: Adelaide Crows (2483)
Least points for: Essendon Bombers (1437)
Pos Team Pld W L D PF PA % Pts 1 Sydney 22 17 5 0 2221 1469 151.2 68 2 Geelong 22 17 5 0 2235 1554 143.8 68 3 Hawthorn 22 17 5 0 2134 1800 118.6 68 4 Greater Western Sydney 22 16 6 0 2380 1663 143.1 64 5 Adelaide 22 16 6 0 2483 1795 138.3 64 6 West Coast 22 16 6 0 2181 1678 130 64 7 Western Bulldogs (P) 22 15 7 0 1857 1609 115.4 60 8 North Melbourne 22 12 10 0 1956 1859 105.2 48 9 St Kilda 22 12 10 0 1953 2041 95.7 48 10 Port Adelaide 22 10 12 0 2055 1939 106 40 11 Melbourne 22 10 12 0 1944 1991 97.6 40 12 Collingwood 22 9 13 0 1910 1998 95.6 36 13 Richmond 22 8 14 0 1713 2155 79.5 32 14 Carlton 22 7 15 0 1568 1978 79.3 28 15 Gold Coast 22 6 16 0 1778 2273 78.2 24 16 Fremantle 22 4 18 0 1574 2119 74.3 16 17 Brisbane Lions 22 3 19 0 1770 2872 61.6 12 18 Essendon 22 3 19 0 1437 2356 61 12